Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hungry beasties

I had an interesting experience with a book a week or so ago.

I had a hand-made journal with paste paper cover sitting somewhere to maybe be bought. It waited patiently and quietly but didn't sell. So I went to collect it and another journal and a few other bits and pieces.

I happily packed up all my goodies and when I got home realised that something had been 'at' my journal. Literally. Ate my journal.

This intrigued me, and between us Barry and I think we determined the culprit was a cockroach. We think it liked the taste of paste (which after all is mostly wheat and water). And in particular it liked to munch where the paste was thickest.

We have been hearing warnings about cockroaches in high numbers given our extremely wet season, which is why we figure it was one of them. The other journal with dyed paper covers wasn't touched, so I now need to think my way through presenting and preserving paste-paper covers for folk who might buy them!

Firstly I thought I might spray the cover with some fixative - figuring that might make the paste less palatable. Secondly I thought I would always have my journals in plastic - reuseable bags from now on to help protect the paste from paste-loving bugsnstuff.

Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions and advice warmly welcomed! What to do with the munched journal is another thing yet to be determined...


  1. good grief - it certainly made a meal of your tasty book eh? little buggers!

    my main problem here is silverfish - so maybe while people are giving you some ideas about roach-proofing books, they might share thoughts on fishy-proofing things too

    (I've got some cellophane-type bags on order to pop my completed books into to hopefully make them harder to get at for all critters regardless of species....)

  2. Yes Fiona I believe you are right being cockroaches. I have had similar problems with my books in the studio. Cockroach baits are preventatives, I am still yet to find a solution!

  3. yuk! not nice to find your book has been nibbled!!! no ideas on the preservation front other than keeping inside an acid free bag while storing....

  4. Nasty chemical based glues might be the go in Qld, but hey - you can always promote them as self destructing/eco friendly/wabi sabi landfill. xoxoxo

  5. Oh dear. This also happened to me once with a sketchbook I left on the floor. Turns out the culprit was silver fish, which are also good climbers and do get into boxes, linen boxes etc. I've still not found a way to get rid of them.

  6. Difficult problem Fiona, given our climate. I tend to think plastic bags might encourage mould... I could be wrong. Perhaps a cloth bag?... tea dyed or other? I found toothmarks in the soap I use to wash brushes. It turned out to be a tiny mouse that I had to trap, unfortunately. Such are the trials of artistic endeavours.

  7. Yes, cockroaches and silverfish! If I remember correctly they don't like strong smells, so storing your books in a bag inside a box with something like lavender bags or a tea-tree-oil rag might do the trick. Mould, vermin, pests, humidity... the life of a sub-tropical artist is full of challenges!

  8. I use spray varnish for many years
    for my paste papers and papers are protected.

    Try it!

  9. Oh, Fiona....we had cockroaches to deal with in Florida, but thank goodness, not here in South Dakota!! They used to like gouache paint too....plastic bags should help. Good luck with your critter woes!!

  10. Fiona,
    What a shame! All that hard work, nibbled and gnawed to bits. I can only suggest something that has already been mentioned and that's a coating with acrylic matt medium. It's the only thing I can think of that will 'seal' the paste paper and not change the feel of the original but it doesn't seem 'right' to go down this route. Commiserations. Lesley

  11. Bad luck, Fiona. Looks like cockroach to me. When I lived in a unit in Sydney there were huge cockroaches in the streets and occasionally they'd fly inside. I actually caught one in the act chewing a newly made box while the paste/glue mix was still damp. I don't have cockroaches here but leopard slugs sometimes come in looking for cat food and I really don't want them in my studio either. They are major munchers.

  12. Hi all - thanks for the thoughts and commiserations! I think I'm going to try a combination of things - perhaps some matt varnish to see what effect that has; perhaps add some clove oil to the paste mix; and definitely get myself some good bags to wrap/store them in - and possibly keep some tea tree oil in and around the books as well.

    Luckily the book got munched in a shop and not at home; but I think the precautions are needed anyway.

    I wonder what the next challenge will be??

  13. Hi Fiona, I work with a lot of bug friendly materials so what I do is cover everything with clod wax medium which I of course make myself. I melt 1 part beeswax take it off the heat and combine it with 1 part Pure Gum Turpentine leave to set. You can add more turpentine if you want a sloppier mix. Start adding pigment or oil paint and magic happens. Hope that helps. x te


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